Browse Month

January 2014

Winter Storm Threat: Jan 28-29 (Only/Final Call)

Well, I *was* going to be lazy and sit this storm out, but today I decided what the heck, let’s make a forecast. It’s a little late… I hate to make a forecast when the event is already underway, but it is what it is.

20140128_MAsnowFinal

Totals include any sleet that may fall near the coast.

I was actually considering going to chase this on the Outer Banks because there would be some awesome scenery with this Carolina special, but my time and budget constraints are just a bit too tight at the moment. I’ve actually never been to the Outer Banks, so it would have been a fun, new experience. I’ll just have to wait for something else to come along, I guess.

Winter Storm Threat: Jan 21 (Final Call)

I strongly believe there will at least be a band (if not continuous then broken) of 8-12″ somewhere from this storm. In this update, I placed it where I think it will be most likely, but would not be surprised if it shifted north or south. It is really hard to pin down the area of best banding, so I won’t be too hard on myself if it doesn’t end up where I have it.

20140121_MAsnowFinal

I tweaked the northern and southern edges as well now that I have higher confidence in the forecast where these gradients are. Basically everyone has the same to higher snowfall compared to my initial map. Add the cold and wind to this event and it’s gonna be a fun day to be outside. Areas around DC northward should stay below freezing through Saturday morning, so this snow pack should have some real staying power!

Winter Storm Threat: Jan 21 (Initial Call)

This storm has really come together on the models in the last 12-18 hours. The vort max has just enough of a dig and neutral/negative tilt to pop a surface low and draw some moisture into the disturbance, which is something these past clippers were missing.

20140121_MAsnowInitial

There should be some nice snowfall ratios around DC and points north… certainly better than 10:1. Cold air will be moving into the region tonight, and most areas from southern VA northward will be below freezing at the onset of snowfall. Further south into North Carolina, surface temps may be above freezing at the onset of precipitation, which could hurt snow totals. There is still a fair amount of disagreement with what area gets hit with the heaviest snow, with some models highlighting just south and east of D.C. as others track the best snow over the northern suburbs. That will be something that I will try to iron out with my final update tonight in addition to the northern and southern cut-offs for the 1″+ area.

Review: The new WUnderground beta site

So I finally caught wind of the new Weather Underground Beta page and provided them with some feedback, but I figured I could go into a more detailed review here. For this review I looked at the DCA (Ronald Reagan Washington National, DC) page. Keep in mind that this is a beta version and will be changed as time goes on. If you have your own feedback to give, please do so on their site.

The new beta version was announced on the Weather Underground Product Team Blog back on January 8th, though apparently with not much fanfare since this morning is the first I’ve heard of it. In it includes a description of how they’re going about this development phase, and like any other beta product, it is by no means intended to look like the finished product. My one gripe comes from what is said in the embedded video on the blog post, which states that their new forecast graph “tells a really clear and detailed story about the forecast in a way that hasn’t ever been done before.” I don’t know if they’re just talking about being able to move about the timeline of the graph specifically, but in a more general sense the graphing system (what meteorologists typically call a meteogram) is very similar to what the National Weather Service currently has, so I’m not quite sure what their interpretation of “hasn’t ever been done before” is.

They also discuss how much they want this site to have the same experience across all platforms, whether it be your phone, tablet, PC, etc. I don’t blame them for trying it, and it certainly has its advantages, but like the whole Windows 8 fiasco it may prove to be quite difficult to get something that someone can have an equally satisfying experience with when transitioning from say PC to phone (as I often do). I cannot praise nor condemn them for trying, but I do wish them good luck.

A lot of comments to their blog post talk about how much better the old version is at providing the most data possible. Yes, it is nice to have all that data, but they’re still adding these data as time goes on, so it’s hard to completely fault them for not having all of it up and displayed on the beta pages yet. I imagine some parts will be gone or simply just links to different pages in order to keep the more minimalist feel to the page and to allow for faster loading on mobile devices.

On to the main review!

current_and_topnav

The top navigation area with the Search & Favorites and the Recent Cities section is fine. It’s pretty hard to screw up this area, so in my book they pass, but it’s nothing that’s really praiseworthy to begin with. They really need to add the toggle option back for English SI/Metric units, though. I’ll assume that it is just missing because it’s in beta and will eventually be added back in.

In the Current Conditions section, we get most of the basic stuff we need right off the bat, but please give us the units! The temperature, feels like, and wind speeds are there, but their units are not explicitly expressed. For most people, it’s pretty intuitive that they mean Fahrenheit and mph, but really, the units should be on there. The expanded More Conditions area is good, though at the time of this post for some reason the temperature in the More Conditions section was not right. An easy enough fix, but again it’s in beta, so I will not fault them for that. I love reading the raw METAR data and am glad that they kept that around.

forecast

The forecast section looks excellent. I like the look and interactiveness of the hourly data, with the daily summaries above it. The default layout is very nice, and the customization features are great. The only thing I would like to see added is QPF and precipitation types. The Table and Descriptive tabs are also good, though in the Table tab I’m not sure why I have to scroll through the daily summary part at the top. The only difference that has from the similar one in the Graph tab is it’s bigger and has the POPs listed. If it doesn’t have to be there, take out the scrolling and make each day smaller or just leave it with fewer days, or maybe even give it two rows with five days in each row.

weather_map

The weather map is where you can really tell that this is more geared towards mobile/tablet screens rather than PC. To me, it is just way too stretched out with full width on PC, giving a huge bias to east/west but providing very little north/south data. It looks perfectly fine and square on my phone, but to keep a more even perspective on PC there should definitely be a limited width. Personally, for PC users I would stick it up in the Current Conditions section, which would help give it the more square appearance. It is “current conditions,” after all. I’ve always preferred the NEXRAD radar to their WunderMap, but it’s their main radar and I cannot blame them for prioritizing that over NEXRAD.

Actually, when it comes to the radar, I prefer using the classic page! When they moved to the current version, the options to toggle different radar features like SRV and VIL covers the ENTIRE radar, whereas the classic version just had a nice tab that left the radar area visible. The difference for me is keeping the radar area visible makes it easier to go back and forth between the different products to compare their location/overlay. I may or may not be in the minority with preferring the old radar product menu, but it’s really the only reason why I still use the classic page.

whats_missing

I would like to thank WUnderground for offering this beta and feedback option. Too often nowadays we are forced to just accept changes made to web sites *cough* Facebook *cough* Twitter *cough*. I appreciate having the opportunity to provide feedback, just as I hope they appreciate every bit that they get. It is not pictured, but like the header, the footer is good. Again, it’s pretty hard to mess that up.

Overall, the minimalist and full-width look of the site is nice and for the most part, it carries over to different devices well. I keep my browser on full width at home, and it is nice to be able to see as much data right up front as possible. The easy historical data look-up and the NEXRAD Radar are the two biggest (and almost exclusive) reasons why I visit this site, so for me it is pivotal that these are easy to access.

Winter Storm Threat: Jan 2-3 (Only/Final Call)

Seeing as light snow is already falling across the northern extent of my forecast map, this will be the only forecast issuance for tomorrow’s storm. Back from vacation and ready to welcome 2014 with some fresh snow!

Low-level temperatures initially above freezing will eventually cool and allow for a changeover and/or stickage of snow around the greater DC/MD/DE region. I would say there’s more downside potential than upside with my southern cut-off areas as the low gets cranking off the coast. Better ratios are expected north of the Mason-Dixon, where the highest totals are forecast. Some upside potential northeast of DC if the coastal low is stronger/closer.

20140102-03_MAsnowFinal